The filing of a labor certification application is normally the first step when an employer sponsors a foreign national employee for permanent residence. Under the labor certification process, the employer is required to demonstrate that it unsuccessfully conducted a good faith recruitment of the US labor market at the prevailing wage before it can proceed to sponsor the foreign national employee.

The Department of Labor, under the slim authority given to it in INA 212(a)(5) has promulgated complex rules in 20 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 656 that govern how an employer must establish a good faith test of the US labor market. These rules, which have created a huge “labor certification bureaucracy”, also reflect a concern for US workers who were laid off within 6 months of filing the labor certification application. Specifically, 20 CFR 656.17(k) provides:

1) If there has been a layoff by the employer applicant in the area of intended employment within 6 months of filing an application involving the occupation for which certification is sought or in a related occupation, the employer must document it has notified and considered all potentially qualified laid off (employer applicant) U.S. workers of the job opportunity involved in the application and the results of the notification and consideration. A layoff shall be considered any involuntary separation of one or more employees without cause or prejudice.

(2) For the purposes of paragraph (k)(1) of this section, a related occupation is any occupation that requires workers to perform a majority of the essential duties involved in the occupation for which certification is sought.

The requirement for an employer to have notified and considered all potentially qualified laid-off workers has always been a touchy issue for employers. It is easier for an employer to broadcast advertisements and undertake other prescribed recruitment steps for prospective US workers than for an employer to contact its own prior workers regarding a job opportunity that is the subject of the labor certification application. The notification requirement of all laid off workers in the specific occupation or related occupation has also been open to varying interpretations. Would it suffice if the laid off worker was told to check job opportunities in the future on the employer’s website or must the worker be actually notified when labor certification is being sought in the same job opportunity?

The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration has added a new question and answer (Q&A) to its frequently asked questions (FAQ). The new Q&A concerns notification and consideration of laid-off U.S. workers for PERM labor certification applications.

The new Q&A asks, “How does an employer demonstrate that it notified and considered laid-off U.S. workers for the job opportunity listed on the ETA Form 9089?” The answer notes that some employers have misconstrued the regulations to require only that they inform workers when laid off that the employer may have future positions and invite the worker to monitor the employer’s job postings and apply, rather than their actively notifying and considering the laid-off workers. In fact, the Q&A notes, misapplication of the regulatory requirements will result in denial of a PERM application. The employer must make a reasonable, good-faith effort to notify each potentially qualified worker who has been laid off during the six months preceding the application whenever a relevant job opening exists and invite the worker to apply.

The Q&A notes that an employer who files multiple labor certifications can satisfy its responsibilities under the relevant regulation by notifying each laid-off worker (in the manner chosen by the worker) at least once a month that a list of current relevant job openings is maintained electronically on a website operated by the employer. “Simply informing a laid-off worker to monitor the employer’s website for future openings and inviting the worker, if interested, to apply for those openings, will not satisfy the employer’s regulatory obligation to notify all of its potentially qualified laid-off U.S. workers of the job opportunity,” the Q&A states.

The Q&A adds that an employer must maintain documentation showing that it has met its notice and consideration requirements, including copies of all relevant letters, e-mails, faxes, Web pages (including those listing details of the relevant job openings and applications by laid-off workers for those openings), and other contemporaneous documents that show when and how notice and consideration was given. In addition, an employer must obtain and maintain written documentation that a laid-off worker has declined to receive notices, requested discontinuation of the notices, or refused to give or update contact information.

While the DOL has clarified the notification requirement for laid-off workers, must an employer contact all laid off workers in the specific or related occupation for which labor certification is sought even if the employer knows that the laid-off worker’s qualifications do not objectively meet the requirements of the position? For example, the job opportunity for which labor certification is being sought, let’s say a Software Engineer, requires five years of experience in certain computer programming languages like C++, Java and Python. The employer knows that a former worker, also a Software Engineer, who was laid off 3 months ago only had 1 year of experience in C++, but not Java and Python. Is the employer required to notify this worker under 20 CFR 656.17(k) when the employer knows that the laid off worker is not qualified for the position?

The employer must also check off a box on ETA 9089, Section 1.e.26,  which broadly asks whether the employer had a layoff in the area of intended employment in the occupation of the job opportunity or a related occupation within 6 months of filing the application. The checking off the “yes” box is likely to trigger an audit and further scrutiny. The next box Section 1.e.26A, asks “were the laid off U.S. workers notified and considered for the job opportunity for which certification is sought?” If the employer checks off the “no” box or the “NA” box, would that be permissible if the laid off worker is clearly not qualified for the position?   In other words, when an employer knows that a laid-off worker is not potentially qualified, may it only consider the worker’s qualification or does it also need to notify that prior worker? If the labor certification is audited, the DOL will request documentation to establish the number of US workers in the occupation or in a related occupation that were laid off by the employer; a listing of all occupations relevant to the layoffs; an explanation as to why notification or consideration of the employer’s potentially qualified laid-off US workers was not applicable; and proof that any laid off US workers not notified and considered by the employer were not potentially qualified for the job opportunity.

The Board of Alien Labor Certifications in Matter of Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp, 2011-PER-02902 (BALCA February 10, 2014)  held that an employer was justified in rejecting a laid-off worker who was not qualified for the position. While it is not clear from this decision whether the employer had notified the laid off worker, it is clear from the resume that the laid off worker was not qualified for the position, according to BALCA. The position in the instant case required a very deep knowledge of SAS, including SAS on Unix and SAS for Windows. The laid-off worker did not have experience with these program tools. Although the Certifying Officer in denying the labor certification assumed that the laid off worker would have obtained the same skills and knowledge for the position for which labor certification was sought, having worked with the employer for three years, BALCA found that the CO’s assumption was unfounded and unsupported by the record. Cisco Systems, Inc, 2011-PER-02900 (BALCA April 26, 2013), however, provides more clarity regarding whether an employer needs to notify a laid-off worker who is not qualified for the position. There BALCA held that the employer who had not notified a laid-off worker was justified in its rejection of that worker who clearly lacked the qualifications for the position.

It may thus be defensible for an employer to not notify all laid off workers in the occupation for which labor certification is sought, or a related occupation, unless the laid off worker is potentially qualified for the position. Of course, when in doubt, the employer must contact the laid-off worker per the new DOL FAQ. Unfortunately, in the world of labor certification, the DOL imposes unrealistic requirements and burdens upon employers, and one can never know how the DOL will react when an employer justifies that its reason for not notifying laid-off workers was because they were unqualified for the position. The DOL has publically indicated that BALCA does not speak for it, and it may not consider itself to be bound by Matter of Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp or Cisco Systems. Therefore, employers are advised to tread very cautiously when workers have been laid off within six months prior to filing a labor certification on behalf of a foreign national employee.


By Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” Lao –Tzu, Chinese philosopher (604 BC-531 BC)

Ed. note – This article updates information from a previous piece, “Answer Man: Assisted Reproductive Technology and U.S. Immigration Law.”

The Department of State has announced a major and most welcome policy shift to facilitate the transmission of American citizenship to children born outside the United States using Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). It will no longer be necessary in all such cases for the “mother “to have a genetic link to the child. The Department has happily now recognized that American mothers can pass on citizenship to children to whom they give birth regardless of whose egg was used for conception. The “mother” must be the legal mother at the time and place of the child’s birth and the gestational mother. Under the new State Department policy, the biological mother can either be the genetic or the gestational mother; the biological father can obviously only be the genetic father.  The State Department policy goes onto clarify: 

If the child is biologically related to a US citizen father, but not to the father’s spouse, the case would be treated as a birth out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen father, pursuant to INA 309(a), and the father would have to meet the additional requirements of that section.  If the child is biologically related to a U.S. citizen mother, but not her spouse, the case would be treated as a birth out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen mother, and would have to meet the requirements of INA 309(c).  If the child is the biological child of both parents, and the biological parents are married to one another, INA 301 requirements would apply, including a requirement that at least one of the US citizen parents had resided in the United States prior to the child’s birth.

In addition, the State Department now views the child of a legally married lesbian couple as being “born in wedlock” if the baby is conceived from the egg of one mother and carried by the other.

Under the new policy, a US citizen mother who gives birth to a biological child abroad, including through a foreign surrogate (via her egg), can apply for a US passport and Consular Report of Birth Abroad. While the USC parent with the biological nexus should be listed on the CRBA, a second parent can be listed as well if they can document a legal relationship under local law.

It should be noted that this new policy is retroactive. In those instances where an immigration benefit was denied to the foreign-born child of a gestational and legal American mother, the parent should now submit a new application corroborated by probative evidence that they satisfy the substantive requirements of the new policy.

The nationality provisions of the INA were written long before the advent of ART. The State Department is to be heartily congratulated for bringing them into the 21st century. While a genetic footprint will still be necessary for children born out of wedlock to American fathers under INA 309, it will no longer be required for citizenship claims in all other cases arising under INA 301 which is silent on the need for genetic parentage. The willingness and ability to understand parentage in the legal and gestational sense, as well as in the genetic sense, is something for which advocates have long contended. It is precisely what a consistent line of Ninth Circuit case law, which did not deal with ART, has long exemplified. See Scales v. INS, 232 F.3d 1159 (2000); Solis-Espinoza v. Gonzales, 401 F. 3d 1090 (9th Cir. 2005) and, most recently, Gonzalez-Marquez v. Holder, In these cases, so long as a child was not born out of wedlock, or if born out of wedlock was subsequently legitimated,  the child did not need to prove that he or she was the biological child of his USC mother in order to acquire citizenship.  The Department of State, by allowing the transmission of citizenship through a gestational mother, has advanced the concept of family unity which is the organizing principle at the heart of our immigration system:
Public policy supports recognition and maintenance of a family unit. The Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) was intended to keep families together. It should be construed in favor of family units and the acceptance of responsibility by family members. See, e.g., Kaliski v. Dist. Dir. of INS, 620 F.2d 214, 217 (9th Cir.1980) (discussing the “humane purpose” of the INA and noting that a “strict interpretation” of the Act, including an “arbitrary distinction” between legitimate and illegitimate children, would “detract from … the purpose of the Act which is to prevent continued separation of families.”); H.R.Rep. No. 85-1199, pt. 2 (1957), reprinted in 1957 U.S.C.C.A.N.2016, 2020 (observing that the “legislative history of the Immigration and Nationality Act clearly indicates that Congress intended to provide for a liberal treatment of children and was concerned with the problem of keeping families of United States citizens and immigrants united).
Solis-Espinoza, supra, at 1094.

For all of its manifest merits, however, this new policy does not go as far it we would like it to go. If there is no biological link, but the US citizen is still considered as the legal mother under local or foreign law, will the claim to citizenship be accepted?  It does not seem so, unless the mother was the genetic or gestational mother. It is certainly true that, if the mother is neither the genetic nor the gestational mother, but the sperm is that of the US citizen father, US citizenship can still be acquired under the out of wedlock provisions pursuant to INA 309. Yet, what if the father is a lawful permanent resident or perhaps a non-immigrant, while the mother is a US citizen who lacks a genetic or gestational relationship with the baby but nonetheless is the mother under the law of the country of birth? Under these slightly altered facts, there is no automatic transmission of citizenship. This should change.  The State Department is to be praised for recognizing that there need be no biological link but should a child be deprived of the priceless gift of citizenship simply because his or her US citizen mother is unable to bring them to birth due to a medical infirmity? Practically speaking, if the US citizen mother is able to carry the baby, but needs another female’s egg, there would be no reason to leave the USA and the child thus born in the US would be a birthright citizen. It is only when the US citizen mother cannot use her own egg or carry the baby to term that she needs to enter into an arrangement with a surrogate mother overseas. In such an instance, the citizenship of the child should not depend on the sperm donor father being an American citizen. As long as the law of the state or jurisdiction recognizes the US citizen mother as the child’s legal mother who is married to the father, that should be all that matters. Such a policy would be in accord with Scales and Solis-Espinoza.

None of this detracts from the wonderful step that the State Department has made. Let us recognize and rejoice in this advance while we hope for further progress down the road. This is a long journey but the ART update is a milestone along the march. Thanks to the Department of State, the law on citizenship transmission is now far more aligned with modern science and contemporary social mores. No longer is it required that both spouses in a marital union be genetically related to their child as a condition of bring a citizenship claim under INA 301. Legal children born in wedlock now will have the same ability to acquire citizenship at birth as anyone else notwithstanding the continued relevance of genetics. Parents legally bound to each other and to their child under local or foreign law can now apply for a US Passport secure in the knowledge that their baby will not be left stateless. Same sex marriages will now enjoy the presumption of legitimacy for the conferral of citizenship that they have never known.

Not bad.

Authors’ Note: This comment is dedicated to the shining memory of Carmen DiPlacido, author of the Child Citizenship Act. To those who knew the pleasure of his company, the warmth of his friendship, the depth of his wisdom and the strength of his intellect, this is precisely the kind of change that Carmen would have championed, one that reflects equity and inclusiveness. He lived these values and this policy embodies them.

(Guest writer Gary Endelman is the Senior Counsel of FosterQuan. A prior version of this article was published on on February 10, 2014).


The filing of a labor certification is often the first step when an employer sponsors a foreign national for permanent residency. The purpose of the labor certification process, known today as PERM, is to ensure that the employer has tested the US labor market for qualified and available US workers at the prevailing wage rate prior to filing an I-140 petition to classify the foreign national under either the employment second preference or the employment third preference. 

Foreign nationals (and their employers) often want to know why their PERM was selected for audit while PERMs filed on behalf of their colleagues were approved without audit. Many PERM practitioners are familiar with that awful moment when the PERM application for the foreign national who desperately needed a quick approval was issued a Notification of Supervised Recruitment signaling another year, or maybe even two!, on the scary PERM roller coaster. The mystery behind the PERM audit and supervised recruitment process has been no coincidence. The Department of Labor (DOL) has purposefully left employers in the dark about their selection process and frequently shifts their mechanisms all to protect against fraud. Solicitor of Labor Gregory F. Jacob once stated, “Supervised Recruitment is one of many tools the [Department of Labor] uses to safeguard the integrity of the permanent labor certification process and protect job opportunities for American workers. The department takes seriously its statutory responsibility to ensure that American workers have access to jobs they are qualified and willing to do.”  

Nevertheless, through trial and error, certain triggers have been identifiable. We know that PERM applications can be selected for audit for reasons such as random selection; a foreign language requirement; a family relationship between the employer and the alien; an alien with ownership interest in the employer; layoffs in the same or related occupation; a combination of occupations; and more recently because the alien will telecommute; or the employer utilized an employee referral program. Some audits may also be chosen based upon the industry, the employer or the occupation. In recent times, the DOL has increased Supervised Recruitment for IT employers who will employ the foreign national in a roving or telecommuting position.

The DOL has now shed some much appreciated light on its audit and supervised recruitment selection mechanisms. On January 31, 2014, the DOL’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) published the following statement on its website (

Section 212(a)(5)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act requires the Secretary to certify the admissibility of a foreign national for employment only when the Secretary can certify that the employment of that foreign worker will not adversely impact the wages and working conditions of US workers similarly employed, and that there is a job opportunity for which a US worker is unavailable. As the regulated community knows, the Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) is responsible for maintaining the integrity and compliance of the primarily attestation-based PERM Program through the use of certain measures, including audit and supervised recruitment, under a broad integrity review authority. At the time of PERM’s implementation, the Department stated that OFLC would select certain applications for audit, employing “auditing techniques that can be adjusted as necessary to maintain program integrity”, as well as for quality control. 69 Fed. Reg. 77326, 77328 (Dec. 27, 2004). The Department noted at the time the need for changing audit criteria to focus integrity efforts on program abuse and adjust the audit mechanism as necessary as we gained program experience. 69 Fed. Reg. 77359. Finally, the Department reserved the process of supervised recruitment for a broad application “in any case in which the C[ertifying] O[fficer] deems it appropriate” as a reasonable quality control mechanism. 69 Fed. Reg. 77360, 77362. 

In response to a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, we are releasing and making available to all of the regulated community the following documentation regarding the areas in the PERM Program that  have in the past warranted this closer examination. Click here to view the OFLC Audit Plan. These areas were deliberately chosen to ensure we are carrying out our statutory responsibilities while also recognizing the evolving nature of program integrity and quality control.

We hope the publication of this information assists filers, especially first-time filers, comply with the PERM Program’s various requirements.

The OFLC Audit Plan presents Audit and Supervised Recruitment Tiers which specify the types of cases that will be targeted for Audit Review and tagged for Supervised Recruitment. As the DOL has indicated, this plan is being released in response to a FOIA request. Past practice informs us that the DOL would certainly have preferred to continue keeping us in the dark. The plan is dated March 19, 2013 and there is no way to know whether these audit and Supervised Recruitment tiers remain active or whether new tiers have since been added. However, this information does reveal the DOL’s thinking with respect to audits and Supervised Recruitment and helps shed some light on the reasons why certain PERM applications are selected. According to the plan, there are eight (8) active tiers and (4) suspended tiers.  

The active audit tiers are as follows:

TIER ONE: PERMs will be audited if the primary requirement in Section H, Field 4 of the ETA Form 9089 is less than a Bachelor’s degree, e.g. “none”, “Associates” or “High School” AND the position is not classified under SOC Code 45-2093.00 – Farmworkers, Farm, Ranch, and Aquacultural Animals in Section F on the ETA Form 9089. 

TIER TWO: PERMs will be audited where the SOC Code in Section F, Field 2 on the ETA Form 9089 matches one or more of the trade related occupations contained in an attachment. 

The attachment was not published. However, this list would presumably include positions like Plumber, Electrician, Helpers-Carpenters or Helpers-Painters.  It is conceivable that these cases would be audited so that the employer can present its proof that an available US worker could not be found since it is typically easier to find U.S. workers in the trade occupations.

TIER FOUR:  PERMs will be audited where the employer is a public school listed on an attachment entitled PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO AUDIT. 

The attachment was not published.

TIER FIVE:  The DOL will audit 50% of PERMs where the offered position requires a degree but does not require any experience. This will be determined by the information presented in Section H, Field 4 and Section H, Field 6 of the ETA Form 9089. 

The logic behind this tier is confusing. It is possible for the employer to indicate a degree requirement in Section H.4; indicate “No” in Section H.6 and yet require experience for the offered position. Section H.6 asks “Is experience in the job offered required for the job?” Section H.10 asks “Is experience in an alternate occupation acceptable?” It is therefore possible for an employer to require no experience in the offered position but instead to require experience in an alternate occupation.  Employers commonly offer positions where experience in the job offered is not required but experience in a related position is required. For example, ABC, Inc. may require two years of experience as a Marketing Analyst for the offered position of Marketing Manager. Accordingly, the ABC, Inc. will indicate “NO” to the question in Section H.6 regarding whether experience in the job offered is required and then answer “YES” to the question in Section H.10 indicating that experience in an alternate occupation is acceptable. Also, in Section H.10-A, ABC, Inc. will indicate the number of months of experience required in the alternate occupation. This means that the experience listed in Section H.10-A is the primary experience requirement rather than an alternate requirement. In FAQs Round 10the DOL, in the context of a question concerning the need to include the Kellogg language (language well-known to practitioners filing PERM applications as the Kellogg language based on Matter of Francis Kellogg, 94-INA-465 (Feb. 2, 1998) (en banc)) on the ETA Form 9089, confirmed that it is perfectly acceptable for an employer to require experience in an alternate occupation and not in the job offered.  But based on the information provided on the OFLC Audit Plan, there is a 50% chance that ABC, Inc.’s PERM application will trigger an audit for supposedly requiring a degree and no experience. 

Considering the additional processing time brought on by an audit (currently, in its audit queue, the DOL is only processing PERMs filed in October 2012!), the DOL ought to amend its review under this tier so as not to cause unfair processing delays for employers who actually do require a degree and experience for their offered positions. 

TIER TWELVE:  The DOL will audit 50% of cases where the employer has indicated on the ETA Form 9089 that they have had a layoff.  Specifically, if the employer has answered “YES” in Section I, Field 26 which asks “Has the employer had a layoff in the area of intended employment in the occupation involved in this application or in a related occupation within the six months immediately preceding the filing of this application?”

The ETA Form 9089 goes on to ask, “If yes, were the laid off U.S. workers notified and considered for the job opportunity for which certification is sought?”

Layoffs have long been considered an audit trigger. With the economy continuing to flounder and many employers still reducing their workforce in order to remain competitive, the DOL will continue to more closely examine the employer’s good faith recruitment of U.S. workers. The PERM regulations at 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(k)(1) state: If there has been a layoff by the employer in the area of intended employment within 6 months of filing an application involving the occupation for which certification is sought or in a related occupation, the employer must document it has notified and considered all potentially qualified laid off (employer applicant) U.S. workers of the job opportunity involved in the application and the results of the notification and consideration. A layoff shall be considered any involuntary separation of one or more employees without cause or prejudice.

The issue of layoffs is one that PERM practitioners ought to discuss with employers at the outset of the PERM process. If it has been determined that layoffs have indeed occurred (even just one) then the practitioner must go through the PERM regulatory analysis with the employer. 

The active Audit and Supervised Recruitment tiers are as follows:

TIER SEVEN:  A PERM may be tagged for audit and supervised recruitment if it was submitted after a denial within the same calendar year. Specifically, if the employer’s name in Section C, Field 1 is equal to one or more of the employer names listed in the DOL’s “Denied _Cases table” AND  the alien’s name in Section J, Field 1 is equal to one or more of the foreign worker names listed in the “Denied _ Cases table.” 

This trigger is interesting because if a PERM is erroneously denied, the employer will usually have to decide whether to re-file the application or file a Request for Reconsideration with the Certifying Officer based on which process appears faster. Clearly, refiling may not always prove to be a faster route.  

TIER EIGHT: A PERM may be tagged for audit and supervised recruitment if it was re-submitted after it was withdrawn after audit. Specifically, if the Employer’s name in Section C, Field 1 is equal to one or more of the employer names listed in the DOL’s “Withdrawn_Cases table” AND the alien’s name in Section J, Field 1 is equal to one or more of the foreign worker names listed in the “Withdrawn_ Cases table” AND the “Audit Notification Date” in the “Withdrawn_ Cases table” is not null.

Employers may not be saving themselves any time by withdrawing and re-submitting an audited PERM but in fact, may be delaying the processing of the application by a year or more if it gets selected for Supervised Recruitment.

TIER ELEVEN: A PERM may be tagged for audit and supervised recruitment if it was not filed electronically and had to be manually entered by staff at the Atlanta National Processing Center. 

No employer should knowingly venture down this road.
The OFLC Audit Plan also lists some inactive tiers which are currently suspended and therefore are not triggers for audits or supervised recruitment. These include:

TIER THREE: H-1B Dependent Employers.  

Hopefully this remains where it belongs as a non-trigger.

TIER SIX: Requiring a degree and indicating that the alien’s Class of Admission as H-2A, H-2B or EWI (Entered Without Inspection).

TIER NINE: Employers who recently issued layoffs. 

The DOL has apparently moved away from auditing every PERM indicating a layoff to now auditing only 50% of PERMs which indicate a layoff. 

TIER TEN: Employer with a history of roving. 

Practitioners who routinely file PERMs involving roving employees have definitely noticed that the DOL has calmed down its onslaught of audits and Supervised Recruitment Notifications on these types of PERMs. And it didn’t come a moment too soon.

This OFLC Audit Plan can be extremely helpful. Rather than waiting until the employer or foreign national demands an explanation as to why a PERM was selected for audit or Supervised Recruitment, the above list of active and inactive tiers allows practitioners to better advise employers thereby making the PERM process a tad less fraught with danger. Just a tad though.